Daughters to get equal share of parental propertyAfter nearly 40 years of unequal laws on inheritance, the Civil Code bill has proposed that sons and daughters are entitled to equal shares of parental property
The Muluki Ain, currently in force, entitles daughters to an equal share of the property as long as they remain unmarried. If a daughter receives her share before marriage, she does not have to return the property to other legal heirs. But if she gets married before the partition, she is no longer counted as a legal heir, and whether she gets her portion of the inheritance depends on the generosity of her parents, brothers and unmarried sisters. Despite being equal inheritors at birth, a daughter’s right to ancestral property is revoked once her marital status changes.
The Civil Code bill, together with the Criminal Code bill, will replace the Muluki Ain.
Meera Dhungana, vice-president at the Forum for Women in Law and Development (FWLD), welcomed the removal of the discriminatory provision. “Finally, marriage will no longer determine whether a daughter will inherit her parents’ property,” said Dhungana.
The FWLD challenged the Muluki Ain provision in the Supreme Court in 2011. The court decided in favour of the unequal law.
Although the proposed Civil Code has done away with the invidious clause, women rights advocates worry that most women will never claim their right to equal inheritance for fear of disrupting harmony in their families.
Sita Giri Oli, a CPN-UML Constituent Assembly member, said that implementation of the provision could be a problem. “We need a strong justice system and a monitoring mechanism. For instance, the National Women Commission stands to be a constitutional body. It can intervene if women are denied their inheritance right. Besides, every woman and every parent need to be aware of the change in law,” said Giri.
Milestones in fight to equal inheritance laws
1975: No clear provision until then. A clause in the Muluki Ain allows a daughter unmarried until 35 years of age right to inherit property. If the daughter gets married later, she
has to return the property to her brothers after subtracting the wedding costs
1993: Case filed in Supreme Court against the discriminatory provision
1995: Apex court directs the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare to draft a bill ensuring women’s right to inherit property
2001: Women’s property rights bill submitted to Parliament
2002: The bill passes and amendments are made to the Muluki Ain. The 35-year age bar is lifted, but the clause that forces a woman to return property after marriage stays
2007: Gender Equality Act is introduced and amendments are made to the Muluki Ain accordingly. Unmarried daughters are allowed an equal share of property, but married ones need not be considered partakers during partition
2011: A case is filed at the Supreme Court against the new discriminatory provision. (The law prevails.)
2014: The Civil Code bill proposes equal inheritance laws. Sons and daughters are equal sharers in property division, regardless of their marital status